Karen Silkwood, pictured above, was a chemical technician employed at the Ker-McGee power plant in Crescent Oaklahoma. She became a part of the workers union and headed an investigation of health and safety at the plant. She discovered what she believed to be numerous violations of health regulations, including exposure of workers to contamination, faulty respiratory equipment and improper storage of samples. In the summer of 1974, Silkwood testified to the Atomic Energy Comission about these issues, alleging that safety standards had slipped because of production issues. She also alleged that Kerr-McGee employees handled the fuel rods improperly and that the company falsified inspection records. Sounds good so far, but following this she was mysteriously contaminated with plutonium on 3 consecutive days, each following a decontamination and without knowledge of a source of exposure. She reportedly had documentation of inadequate safety and was planning to give the evidence to a reporter. However, on her way to meet the reporter she was killed in a car accident, where no evidence against the power company was found, and drugs were found in her possession. The Erin Brokovich story is very similar in that a single person compiled evidence against a power (gas and electric) company that was improperly disposing of a waste that was contaminating ground water and afflicting a neighboring community.
The use of nuclear power as an energy source has been a controversy which has surrounded its widespread use in the U.S. for the provision of fuel for civilian purposes. The controversy peaked following the Three Mile Island incident in 1979. Nuclear energy is a sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions and increases energy security by decreasing dependence on foreign oil. Nuclear power produces considerably less air pollution, such as greenhouse gases and smog, than the burning of fossil fuel. However, these facts have been obscured and lost amongst the rhetoric and messages offered by the environmentalist movement. By using exploiting the fear many americans possess on the use of nuclear power and the events surrounding Three Mile Island, the environmentalist movement has paved the way for the continued use of inefficient pollution producing alternative sources of energy.